High-value investments, such as home purchases or highly priced government and private projects, generally require investors to make lump-sum payments. However, large amounts may not always be readily available. An interested buyer can buy more time to arrange money and conduct a title search and appraisals by offering a small deposit to the seller. This deposit is referred to as the earnest money deposit and acts as an assurance of buying intentions to the seller.
This article will help to understand earnest money’s meaning and significance.
Earnest money is a deposit that a prospective homebuyer makes to a seller to represent their good faith and intention to buy the concerned property. The money is deposited while acquiring a new home, property, or a high-value project. This allows the buyer some time to arrange finances and complete other requirements, such as property appraisals, title searches, or inspections.
It is typically paid when the homebuyer makes an offer on a property, and is held in an escrow account until the sale is completed. The amount of earnest money can vary, but it is generally a small percentage of the purchase price of the property. If the sale is completed, the earnest money is applied towards the purchase price of the property. If the sale is not completed, the earnest money is typically returned to the buyer, although in some cases it may be forfeited to the seller if the buyer backs out of the deal for a reason that is not specified in the purchase contract.
While some transactions involve paying earnest money directly to the seller, it is not always the case. Buyers and sellers often create an escrow account with a third-party broker to ensure that the money is fairly distributed at the end of the transaction.
Once the offer is accepted, the buyer and seller must enter into a contract. To do so, the buyer needs to sign the purchase agreement. This agreement binds the buyer and seller legally and also contains the conditions and process of money transfer to the seller.
The contract also contains the refund terms, as agreed by both buyer and seller. If the buyer breaks the contract terms, they may lose the earnest money deposit. However, the contract lays down some contingencies that allow buyers to back out of the deal without losing the earnest money.
Earnest Money acts as a gesture of good faith that assures the seller that the buyer is serious about buying the home. It also helps buyers as they can get preference for high-demand properties by making a sizable deposit. An attractive deposit amount can also help to negotiate contract terms to make them more favourable.
An earnest money contract is a document that is prepared when the earnest money is exchanged. It binds the buyer and seller legally. This contract defines the refund conditions for the amount deposited as earnest money.
Earnest money contracts lay down terms and conditions related to the refund of the deposited amount. It also defines remedies in case the seller or buyer breaches the contract. Some key terms in an earnest money contract are below:
This is the agreed-upon amount that the buyer will pay for the property.
This is the date on which the sale of the property will be finalized and the ownership transferred to the buyer.
These are conditions that must be met before the sale can go through. For example, a common contingency is that the buyer obtains financing for the purchase.
This refers to a situation in which either the buyer or seller fails to meet their obligations under the contract.
This outlines the process for resolving any disputes that may arise during the sale process.
These are statements made by the seller about the property, such as its condition and any known defects.
These are fees and expenses associated with transferring ownership of the property from the seller to the buyer.
Note: All earnest money contracts do not have all the contingencies. The refund terms will depend on the contingencies agreed upon at the time of entering the contract.
Here is what prospective buyers can do to protect their earnest money deposit:
A buyer will want to back out due to the unavailability of finance or after spotting a serious defect during an inspection. However, they will lose their earnest money deposit in case these contingencies are not included in the contract. These scenarios are more common than buyers can imagine and thus it is wise to include the contingencies in the contract.
The earnest money deposit contract must be concrete and all conditions must be mentioned in writing. This helps to eliminate the possibility of misunderstandings and disputes. While amendments are possible, one must ensure that every amendment is written and signed.
Every term in the contract is important and not following it may lead to forfeiture of the deposit amount. It is important to adhere to the timelines mentioned in the contract to protect the earnest deposit.
A third-party escrow account is always a safer option as compared to sending the money directly to the seller. Giving the sellers complete control over funds can lead to the buyer not getting earnest money refunds even if they are entitled to them.
Not all third parties are equally credible to handle sizeable sums of money. It is important to verify that the third party is genuine and reputed. Buyers must also ensure that the money is held in an escrow account and insist on a receipt.
Below are some conditions that may be mentioned in the contract to make earnest money refundable.
Banks in India offer earnest money deposit schemes that help prospective buyers to pay the earnest money deposit and get a chance to buy the respective property.
EMD loans are short-term loans that have the following features:
Earnest money deposit is a beneficial facility that helps buyers to make high-value transactions. Lenders offer EMD loans to help buyers get some time to arrange for finance and conduct inspections and property appraisals. Buyers must understand the contract terms well and ensure that they protect the money in case of deal failures.
Ans. The value of earnest money deposits varies from deal to deal. It often varies between 1-10% of the sale price. It depends on market conditions and the demand for property. If the property is in high demand, the seller will require a higher deposit.
Ans. If the buyer backs out of a property deal for reasons other than the contingencies mentioned in the earnest money contract, they do not get a refund.
Ans. While some people pay earnest money to the seller, it is not advisable. Hiring a third party protects the interest of the buyer and helps them to get a refund if the deal fails for reasons mentioned as contingencies in the contract.
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